COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s season came to a disappointing end, but the Buckeyes had plenty of highlights along the way.
They went on the road to win at Oklahoma and Wisconsin. They also beat Michigan for the fifth straight season and returned to the College Football Playoff. Plenty of performances and plays stand out. What’s less clear, though, is which player offered the most to Ohio State this season. The Buckeyes had three consensus All-Americans but no real Heisman contender.
Here are our five choices for the Ohio State MVP. Read through the case for each player and then cast a vote at the bottom.
QB J.T. Barrett
Numbers: 24 passing TDs, 7 INTs, 61.5 completion percentage, 2,555 yards passing; 205 carries for 845 yards, 9 TDs
Why: This may have qualified as a down year for Barrett, but he still played an enormous role for Ohio State. He didn’t get the protection or the receiving threats he deserved. His running added another dimension to the Ohio State offense, and he delivered when needed most. Without Barrett, it’s hard to imagine the Buckeyes pulling out those overtime games against Wisconsin and Michigan.
Why not: His accuracy dropped and he took sacks at an alarming rate in big games. He missed open receivers and didn’t grow as a passer. Although his interception total was low, so was his total yards passing.
C Pat Elflein
Numbers: 1 Rimington Trophy (nation’s best center)
Why: He became Ohio State’s first national award winner since 2008, which should count for something. Being the best player in the country at a position is a pretty big deal. The Buckeyes were one of the best run-blocking teams in the country, and Elflein contributed to that in a big way.
Why not: Elflein played an integral role, but center just doesn’t carry the same potential for game-altering impact that other positions do. (Have you ever noticed the lack of first-round draft picks spent on that spot?) Furthermore, he bears at least some responsibility for the offensive-line struggles.
S Malik Hooker
Numbers: 71 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 7 INTs, 3 TDs
Why: When Ohio State needed a play, Hooker made it. Additionally, they were often of the spectacular, jaw-dropping variety. His three defensive touchdowns set a program record not only for one season, but for a career. When Ohio State fans ultimately look back on this season, they’ll probably remember Hooker’s exploits before those of any other player.
Why not: A belief that offensive players have more of an impact on the game, which could be valid, is pretty much the only reason not to vote for him.
MLB Raekwon McMillan
Numbers: 102 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Why: McMillan led the Buckeyes in tackles and served as the leader of one of the best defenses in the country. He had his biggest games when it mattered most. Teams seemed to scheme around him, which means his production could have been even higher.
Why not: He didn’t have quite the impact that people expected from him this season. Furthermore, Hooker far outpaced him in turnovers and touchdowns.
H-back Curtis Samuel
Numbers: 97 rushes for 771 yards, 8 TDs; 74 catches for 865 yards, 8 TDs
Why: Samuel showed what the H-back position at Ohio State should really look like. He was by far the team’s best receiving option and probably its best rushing option as well. On any given play, he was a threat to score.
Why not: He didn’t touch the ball as much as Barrett and occasionally had quiet games. From a pure production standpoint, Barrett was responsible for more TDs, yardage, etc.
VOTE: Ohio State MVP